Libya's UN-backed government boasts of new weapons despite arms embargo

Libya's UN-backed government boasts of new weapons despite arms embargo
The forces of Libya's internationally recognised Government of National Accord boasted Saturday of new weapons to fight off a rival's offensive on Tripoli, despite an arms embargo on the country.
2 min read
The drones were given by Turkish President Erdogan [Getty]
The forces of Libya's internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) boasted Saturday of new weapons to fight off a rival's offensive on Tripoli, despite an arms embargo on the country.

"The GNA supplies armour, ammunition and... weapons, to its forces who are defending Tripoli," read a statement published on Facebook.

Pro-government forces are currently battling fighters from commander Khalifa Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which launched an offensive on April 4 to take the capital.

The GNA said the new weaponry had been supplied "in preparation for a vast operation to annihilate the rebels of the war criminal, the rebel Haftar."

Photos of dozens of armoured vehicles at Tripoli port were also published on the Facebook page, which is run by the media office for the GNA's counter-offensive against Haftar.

A spokesman for the GNA's forces confirmed the shipment to AFP, without detailing where it had come from. 

Read more: Haftar forces kidnap two journalists amid Tripoli fighting

Libya has been under an arms embargo since the 2011 uprising which led to the ousting and killing of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

But the embargo has been regularly violated by different groups in Libya, according to the United Nations. 

In a September report, the UN's group of experts on the country noted an increase in the number of armoured vehicles supplied to Haftar's LNA.

Haftar has been accused by detractors of receiving support including armoured vehicles from foreign states, particularly neighbouring Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

In turn, he has accused Turkey and Qatar of supplying weapons to his rivals. 

Initially controlling swathes of Libya's east, Haftar launched an offensive in the south of the country in January before attacking the coastal capital last month.

His forces have been held back from the city centre by pro-government forces, with fighting continuing on the outskirts of Tripoli and particularly in the southern suburbs.

Armed groups, affiliated to the GNA, received drones for the first time and began to deploy them along the front lines, The Independent reported on Wednesday.

Libyan analyst Mohamed Eljarh cited reports of impromptu flights between Turkey and Misrata and insinuated that the drones were given by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a staunch supporter of the internationally recognised GNA government.

Khaled al-Meshri, president of Libya's High Council, reportedly said the GNA had obtained unmanned drones and modified them to counter Haftar's war planes and aerial surveillance capabilities.

"Yes, we have drones," al-Meshri said, according to The Independent. "Our aerial capacity has gotten better. The logic is overwhelming here, that the more time goes, the better we get. We didn’t expect this war."